Why Silicon Valley celebrates failure

Although Silicon Valley is a glittering, high-tech icon of accomplishment, its success story comes with a surprising twist.

Silicon Valley is the US' geographic golden child. A glittering, high-tech icon of accomplishment against all odds; a magnet for the innovative and the restless.

Yet this success story comes with a twist: Silicon Valley tolerates failure, celebrates it even.

The former orchard groves south of San Francisco are as much an ode to catastrophe and crushing disappointment as they are to achievement.

A culture - some might say a fetish - of failure permeates every open-floor office plan and shiny new Tesla in the Valley.

You aren't considered a bona fide success in Silicon Valley unless you have failed - ideally, multiple times and in spectacular fashion.

There's even an annual Failcon conference, where people celebrate their failures - and, presumably, learn from them. (Failure, apparently, is contagious; there are now Failcon conferences in Tel Aviv, Bangalore, Barcelona and elsewhere.)

Yes, failure is the engine that drives Silicon Valley; it's an integral part of the region's creative ecology - but not for the reasons that are so often touted.

Silicon Valley's failure fetish traces back to its beginnings, and is intertwined with its geography.

It's no coincidence that the world's premier technology hub sprouted not in establishment East Coast cities like New York and Boston, but in the far West.

California was - and to an extent still is - a place one flees to, a refuge for jilted lovers, bankrupt businessmen, lost souls.

As one of the region's high-tech pioneers, William Forrester of Stratus Computer, put it, "If you fail in Silicon Valley, your family won't know and your neighbours won't care."

And the Valley is, at least in part, a child of the 1960s counter-culture movement, an era when failure, or at least contrariness, was a way of life.

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